“Our job is to create and offer as many opportunities for students to learn and compete in a safe and fair way.” That quote from WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman has he and his staff literally looking at all possible scenarios for the Fall of 2020. Hoffman says, “the number 1 question we get is how is this Fall going to work?” The simple answer is, we don’t know. But that doesn’t mean they won’t know, Hoffman says his staff is currently working on plans for all potential scenarios that they could face come August when teams are getting ready to return to practice.
There really are 4 scenarios that the schools and WIAA are faced with when the new school year begins.
1) nothing changes and everything is shut down and no students in classrooms and no sports. That is the easy one the options are all taken away from schools and the WIAA and they follow what is being ordered.
2) This is the other easy one and everything is re-opened with no restrictions. The biggest issue with this scenario is the timing of the all-ok order. This is currently Phase 4 of the recently released plan from Governor Inslee. This phase could be reached by as early as July 6 but the plan says the benchmarks to go from one phase to the next is a minimum of 3 weeks so everything would have to fall into place perfectly with no delays to reach the July 6 goal. Link to Governor’s Phased in Plan
So if July 6 is not reached the next question is how long would it be after that date? Is it just another week? or did each phase add 1 or 2 weeks and now it has been pushed to early August? Hoffman says there are a lot of moving parts here so we simply have to wait and see how this all works and where we are as we reach those dates. But clearly, if the all-go is given then it should be pretty much back to as normal as can be.
3) This is the one that appears to be most unlikely for several reasons but plans are still being made. If there is a way to participate with no fans allowed and minimal administrative needs on site. This allows the competition to move forward but it seems like a longshot. If fans are not allowed likely there would not be an ok for teams to compete with each other in close confines like in football you block and tackle and it’s a ton of personal contact. Volleyball you are simply in close quarters unable to maintain the 6-foot separation, soccer again close confines and lots of personal contact battling for the ball.
Could other sports work such as in tennis where maybe they play only singles and golf maybe in pairs and cross country with a 3 minute stagger of runners and limited number of runners for each heat and all runners timed may be options. But we think that if schools are not allowed to take students the chances of an exception for sports is unlikely.
4) This option would likely be under phase 3 of the Governor’s plan where groups up to 50 can gather. What is not clear is if the group of 50 would include participants and crowd or since for instance football is out on the field would that be considered one group of 50 and those in the stands another group of 50 and maybe another group of 50 on the other side of the field if there are bleachers and maybe a group of 50 roped off in both endzones? The thinking there is that each group would be distanced so the big question is how far apart do the groups of 50 have to be from another group of 50?
Regardless the 50 max would be a big issue for football. Consider you have 5 officials, 3 man chain crew and coaches let’s say a very conservative number of 3 each this is by itself 14 people leaving 36 or just 18 players for each team. Maybe you could go to a 3 man officiating crew to add 1 to each team or 2 coaches each adding another player per side. Even then playing football with just 19 or 20 is difficult for the majority of the schools.
Now this may allow the smaller schools to compete in football on time. 6-man, 8-man and likely many 2B schools could all go but 1A and above it is a challenge for most schools, yes some probably could but it may not be the fairest way which is part of what the WIAA has to do is make it fair for as many as possible.
What are the options? Cancel those sports that can’t go under the restrictions or is there another possible solution? Hoffman says all solutions and out of the box thinking has been taken into account and that includes moving sports out of their traditional time slot to another to make as many opportunities available as possible.
For years there are many who believed in Washington State that baseball should be played in the Fall and move Football to Spring because we generally have much better baseball weather in the Fall over our rainy Springs. Well in September of 2020 those people may just get their wish.
Yes, if the 50 person group rule is in effect there is a plan being worked on and if adopted would move baseball to the Fall and Football to the Spring. Additionally if other sports were deemed unable to comply with the 50 and under such as Volleyball if the 50 person group limit is determined to be everyone in the gym for example then potentially Volleyball could be moved to the Spring and Fastpitch to Fall. If for some reason it is not allowed the other sports swimming, soccer, cross country, tennis and golf could all be moved but there is belief most of those sports would be able to comply with the 50 and under rule with some accommodation as we described above.
For football though there is another reason that could have more impact than the governor’s plan. Hoffman says the companies that refurbish helmets and certifies them have all been shut down due to the virus and their stock pile is now at about a million helmets from schools all over the country and they are unsure of how fast they can get them done. So getting all the helmets back in time for fall could be an issue. Hoffman says they would likely need to find out from each team how many helmets they are missing and if they can field a competitive team if those helmets are not back in time.
“In the end it is about learning, competing and opportunity for kids”, said Hoffman, “one thing I think we all learned going through this with Spring sports, I doubt there would be much argument or complaining if we simply were able to allow kids to participate regardless of sport and regardless of calendar dates.” The kids just want to play and we want to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t let any chance at that slip past us due to a date or season on the traditional sports calendar.”
Hoffman adds that sports and extra curricular activities are really important to the learning process for many students. As schools are trying to work on-line with students there are reports from many that getting students to be fully engaged in school work right now is a huge challenge. Hoffman says he believes with eligibility requirements to participate would certainly help teachers and give them another tool to keep students focused on their school work if they are still doing some of their work from home.
Hoffman says clearly they will have more information as we get through the next 2 months and let’s hope we can get to phase 4 as quickly as possible. Hoffman will update this information as soon as he gets new details to pass on and will continue to work with the State Superintendent, Heath Officials and Governor’s Office.
So who knows maybe this Fall we will hear the crack of the bat and “SAFE”, instead of the collision of pads and “TOUCHDOWN”. Either sound would be music to our ears.